I studied at Queensland University of Technology, completing a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutr&Diet) in 2010. Whilst at uni, I tried really hard to expose myself to as many different aspects of dietetics as possible – volunteering, doing work experience, helping out with research projects on my holidays, attending DAA conferences and other PD events to see what it was all about.
A little bit about my job/what would be a typical day for you?
I was very fortunate to land my dream job working at the Princess Alexandra Hospital shortly after I finished my degree. My first workload consisted of trauma, orthopaedics and spinal injury among others and it was here that I stumbled across my passion. The PA Hospital has the only spinal cord injury rehabilitation facility in the state and is one of only a few in the country. Spinal cord injury is a life changing event and working with this group of patients throughout their sometimes long admissions is very rewarding. This now makes up the majority of my workload, along with a food allergy/intolerance outpatient clinic and a general outpatient clinic. Food allergy and intolerance would be my second passion – it’s so interesting to see how individuals can react to different compounds in foods and guide them on a path towards symptom relief! I also have a significant non-clinical workload consisting of multiple research studies, undertaking quality improvement projects, acting as a dietetic rep for hospital committees and educating staff within and outside the hospital about the role of nutrition in various disease states.
My days might be spent providing nutrition care to inpatients or outpatients, acting as a preceptor for students on their clinical placements, holding a cooking group, coordinating dietetic referrals for spinal injured patients around the state, stepping in to cover colleagues on other wards in the hospital, corresponding with dietitians around the country who also work in spinal cord injury (not many of us!), collecting data to evaluate our service, developing resources, recruiting patients for research studies, collecting data, writing grant applications or even instructing a yoga class as part of the hospital’s lifestyle program!
What do you enjoy most about your role?
What I love most about my role is the variety and the people I work with. I’m lucky to belong to a very supportive department surrounded by inspiring colleagues who have achieved so much in their careers.
Tell me a little bit about your career in dietetics thus far and/or why did you choose dietetics as a career?
I can’t remember ever not wanting to be a dietitian. A good friend of mine taught me that good food, good wine and good company are some of the greatest things in life and I try to live by this. Food is one of my greatest loves – my weekends are spent sourcing the freshest ingredients from local markets and eating out at nearby restaurants and cafes discovering new ways of preparing food. Combine this with an interest in medicine, a love of talking to people and an ability to think quickly and problem solve, and Dietetics seemed like the perfect fit.
Like so many other areas, there is a huge shortage of nutrition research undertaken in spinal cord injury. They can be quite a tricky group to access and the numbers are much smaller compared to oncology or renal disease for example. But having said this – there are a number of factors which make this population incredibly unique, particularly from a nutrition point of view so I’d have to say that spinal cord injury is my number one research area of interest. I have two studies in progress at present around the assessment of energy expenditure using indirect calorimetry and I can’t wait to see what we find!
Pressure injuries are another area I’m passionate about and I’m lucky to be involved in a multi centre randomised controlled trial looking at the role of nutrition interventions in the healing of pressure injuries. Although I’m recruiting patients from across the whole hospital, pressure injuries are a common challenge for many of my spinal injured patients so it’s great to be apart of research that may help this group – and others – down the track.
Why do you undertake research?
I’m a firm believer in the importance of evidence based practice as I think it lends credibility to our profession and our interventions. I work in an environment where research is not only encouraged, but actively supported which is great. I undertake research not only for the challenge but to help answer some of the many clinical questions I ask myself on a daily basis.
What would be your number one tip to someone starting their career in dietetics?
I’d recommend putting yourself out there, meeting as many people in the industry as you can and trying lots of different areas regardless of whether you’re interested in it or not. Keep an open mind – you never know where opportunities might present themselves or where they might lead you.